The final day of Kumite in Tennessee 16 and Genesis 3 are officially underway as the first two regional tournaments of 2016. While these tournaments are going on, I want to talk about the most common ruleset in fighting game tournaments: Bans.
Bans in tournaments come in different types: characters, stages, and moves. Banning a certain move in fighting game isn’t as common as banning characters or stages, but they do have their moments. The reasoning behind why we have these bans is because they could be overpowered, unfair, or broken. When it comes to DLC characters in fighting game, they are usually banned in one tournament because if a character comes out within less than 2-3 weeks before a tournament, no one will have time to learn the matchup. Console exclusive characters are banned because not everyone owned the same version of that fighting game (ex. Soul Calibur II, which I’ll mention in a moment). However, they do become legal in the next tournament. And other times, unlock conditions can be problem because tournament organizers have to go through hell for unlocking certain characters. In a way, we as fighting game players make these ruleset as a way that we see fit. Of course, casual and new players won’t like it, but they have to understand why.
Every fighting game has a banned ruleset in a tournament. I will go through most of them as much as I can, no matter how controversial they are. Mind you, I won’t talk about the controller bans or the type of bans that each player has to follow outside of gameplay. Definitions will be underlined.
Street Fighter series
In Street Fighter II, there are rarely any bans used in that game right until Super Street Fighter II Turbo came out.
When Super Turbo came out, it added one more character in the game who would become a hidden boss character: Akuma. When Akuma debuted in Super Turbo, he was a difficult boss to beat when you faced him. He had air fireballs, deals a lot of damage, and he could not be stunned. You can actually play as Akuma via a code in-game. You can use him in arcade mode if you are playing solo or versus mode if you are playing casually with friends. In terms of tournaments (mostly in U.S. tournaments), using Akuma was a big no-no. He was banned because of the stuff that I mentioned earlier (mostly no stun and overpowered moves. Air fireballs aren’t a problem). Mind you, Akuma in Super Turbo was designed to be a very powerful character. In Japanese Super Turbo tournaments, Akuma is actually soft-banned, meaning that top players choose not play instead of using an official enforcement from the tournament organizer. Even in HD Remix, Akuma is still banned in U.S. tournaments even though he has been nerfed in terms of making him more playable such as lowering his stamina, giving a blowback to his air fireballs, and giving him a weaker version of his Super. However, as Akuma has been a part of every Street Fighter game he appeared in since his debut in Super Turbo, he became tournament-legal.
Also worth mentioning is the option to select “Old” characters (characters in their Super SF2 incarnation) in Super Turbo. One of the most common “Old” characters that were used in ST are O.Sagat, O.Ken, and O.Hawk. In Japanese tournaments, O.Sagat was soft-banned, which is something I never knew about at the time. I believe according to someone on Reddit, O.Sagat was soft-banned during SBO tournaments. But then again, Sagat in Super Turbo was terrible compared to O.Sagat.
Another character that has been banned in Street Fighter tournaments is Gill from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. One of the reason why he was banned is because of one of his Super Arts, which is Resurrection. Resurrection can be activated when you have a full super meter and all of your life bar has become depleted. Of course, you can interrupt Resurrection by attacking him while he recovers, and he has the same long stun bar as Hugo, Alex, Q, Dudley, and Oro, but he was still overpowered.
In Street Fighter IV Vanilla (for those who don’t know what Vanilla is, it means it is the original version of the game), Seth was originally banned in (some) tournaments because he was considered OP. Honestly, Seth isn’t that good back then compared to how he is now in other SF4 updates, but he is a powerful character if you know how to use him. Also, Gouken was supposed to be banned in some tournaments because of the unlocking conditions. By the time the character was unlocked, he wasn’t banned at all. For some weird reason at World Cyber Games, Seth and Gouken were banned because they were boss characters. I don’t know what WCG were thinking when they did that. Oh well, they have been tournament-legal after Super SF4 came out.
Smash Bros. series
The most common joke when it came to competitive Smash Bros. are “NO ITEMS, FOX ONLY, FINAL DESTINATION!”. But I’m gonna break that stereotype on what’s actually banned in Smash Bros. tournaments.
First things first: Yes, items are banned in competitive Smash. In terms of stages, that’s a different story since stages in competitive Smash are banned based on stage hazards, walk-offs, swimming, or it is a large map. Also worth mentioning is that there are stages that are considered as a counterpick, meaning that you can choose your character/stage in the next round for a better advantage. Instead of saying what stage is banned (because there are a handful of them), I’m going to tell which stages are legal as well as the ones that are counterpicked in every Smash game ever.
Let’s start with Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 first. In Japanese Competitive Smash 64 tournaments, only Dream Land is tournament-legal. The Virtual Console version of Smash 64 is also banned, mostly because of frame-skipping. This is part of the Red Mario/Moyashi ruleset. In North American Competitive Smash 64 tournaments, Dream Land is tournament-legal in singles (as well as doubles), and Kongo Jungle and Hyrule Castle are also legal in doubles. In terms of counterpicking, only Peach’s Castle and Kongo Jungle are used in tournaments. If you are selecting Kongo Jungle, that means you can’t use Dark-colored palettes of DK, Samus, and Captain Falcon because of visibility reasons. This is part of the N64 BR ruleset.
Competitive Melee tournaments is where casual players got the whole “NO ITEMS, ALL STAGES BANNED, FOX ONLY, FINAL DESTINATION” joke from. In reality, it’s not really like that. The five stages that are legal for tournament play in both singles and doubles are Final Destination, Battlefield, N64 Dream Land, Fountain of Dreams, Yoshi’s Story, and Pokemon Stadium (only in Doubles). Pokemon Stadium is a counterpick stage in singles, while Kongo Jungle is a counterpick in doubles. All other stages are banned.
Stages weren’t the only things that were banned in Melee. There were techniques and glitches that were banned in competitive Melee such as the Freeze glitch, Yo-Yo glitch (sometimes banned), the Name Entry glitch, the Soul Breaker glitch used by Mewtwo, the Wobbling technique used by Ice Climbers (which was historically banned until it was accepted), the rising Pound stalling technique used by Jigglypuff, using Peach Bomber on a wall (it’s not banned if you use it for recovery), and the Luigi Ladder. This is all part of the SBR ruleset. Also, if you want to know what Wobbling is, this video below explains it:
While Competitive Brawl was considered the least favorite in the community, it used the Unity ruleset. The most talked about ban in competitive Brawl was the use of Meta Knight. The reason why he was banned in tournament is because TOs considered him as a broken character, and at times they want to host a tournament that does something different. Nowadays, Meta Knight is tournament-legal.
In terms of Stages, the stages that are tournament-legal for both singles and doubles are Battlefield, Final Destination, Smashville, Yoshi’s Island, and Lylat Cruise. Meanwhile, stages like Castle Siege, Delfino Plaza, Frigate Orpheon, Halberd, and Brinstar are counterpicks. Everything else, including created stages, are universally banned.
Finally, we come to Smash 4. On the 3DS version, Final Destination, Battlefield, and Yoshi’s Island are legal stages, while Arena Ferox, Dream Land 64, Duck Hunt, and Prism Tower are counterpicks. As for the Wii U version, the tournament legal stages are Final Destination, Battlefield, Smashville, Lylat Cruise, Dream Land 64, and Town & City. Omega versions of all stages are also legal but if you do select it, you cannot select Final Destination for a second time. That was part of Apex rules. Omega Stages are also used as counterpicking, along with Castle Siege, Delfino Plaza, Duck Hunt, Halberd, Kongo Jungle 64, Skyloft, and Wuhu Island.
So if you are selecting a stage in Smash, just remember that you have more options than just Final Destination and Battlefield.
Tekken isn’t usually the type of fighting game that usually have bans in tournament. However, the game has a few character bans. In Tekken 5, Mokujin was banned in tournaments because of mostly balanced issues. That was during the 2005 Penny Arcade Expo. In Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, I do recall that Jinpachi was banned in the console version because he is an overpowered character that can deplete most of your health. He then became legal in Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
In Tekken 6 and Tag Tournament 2, using customized costumes for characters are not allowed due to time constraints. That also means using item moves are banned as well. Combot is also banned because of the same reasons why customized characters are banned.
Dead or Alive series
The game that I play competitively. This ruleset comes from the FreeStepDodge community in terms of what is legal in DOA tournaments.
In DOA2 Ultimate, Tengu was banned in tournaments. The reason why is because he is a very damaging character. I’m trying not to say he’s overpowered since I’ve used that word so many times. But yea, he was broken. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there was one stage ban in DOA2 Ultimate, which was DOATEC Germany. The reason why that stage was banned is because there were times where characters such as Gen-Fu, Hayabusa, and Bass could do a kill combo. Mind you, the standard health for DOA2 at the time was 240HP.
Speaking of broken, Hayate’s cartwheel in Dead or Alive 3.1 (2P+K/8P+K) is banned because that move can bypass EVERYTHING. It can beat throws, strikes, and tracking moves. The character, on the other hand, is legal to use.
Dead or Alive 4.1 was a competitive nightmare to the community, and it is a favorite among casuals. In terms of WCG rules, Tengu was still banned for the same reason why he was banned in DOA2U. Another reason why Tengu is banned is because of the unlocking conditions. The same goes for Helena and Nicole (Spartan-458 of the Halo series). Nicole was banned due to rights issues with Microsoft since Halo wasn’t present during WCG back in 2007.
As for stages, Experimental Playground was banned because of the messed up physics in the stage. Attempting air juggles against certain characters like Kasumi and Gen-Fu are not guaranteed. The dinosaurs are unpredictable and annoying, especially when it came to that goddamned Pterodactyl near the stage barrier. That thing will fly outta nowhere!
For DOA Dimensions, the Metroid stage from Metroid Other M (developed by Team Ninja) was banned because if you blew on the mic and Samus appears with a Power Bomb, there is a chance where it can cause the game to desync on the 3DS.
In DOA5 Vanilla, Ends of the Earth stage was banned due to the slip stun issues where any mid attack would cause slip stun. It was fixed in 1.03 to make sure that mid attacks would cause slip stun on counter hit, making the stage legal. Alpha-152 was originally going to be a soft-ban, but since the community sees her as a weaker character, she became tournament-legal. However, in every DOA5 update (which was the same case with DOA4 and DOAD), the Dojo stage is banned because it promotes stalling.
The most controversial ban was the costume soft-ban in DOA5 Last Round. The soft-ban was intended to make sure the audience watches the tournament for the gameplay instead of the costumes, but it received negative backlash not only from the community, but also from people who don’t even play the damn game.
I know what you’re thinking: “Was the costume soft-ban ever used in tournaments?” Honestly, it was never used, and tournament players never cared about using those costumes (except Japan). Since then, it has died down.
The most well-known ban in Soul Calibur II was the console-exclusive characters. Link, Spawn, and Heihachi were banned in Soul Calibur II because not everyone owned the same version of each character. Necrid was also banned from tournament play because he was a broken character. Sophitia, Seong Mina, Assassin, Berserker, and Lizardman were banned for a brief moment, but ended being tournament-legal later on. If you were playing on the PlayStation 2, the 3P costumes and the Windmill stage were banned due to the slowdown issues. Attack Throw Cancels (ATC) are banned along with Lizardman’s Reptile Rumble (because it can lead to infinites) and Seong Mina’s Camera Glitch. However, Heihachi and Spawn became tournament legal in SoulCalibur II HD Online.
SoulCalibur III was the black sheep of the competitive scene, much like DOA4.1. It came out for the PS2 first, then it was released for the arcades months later. According to Jaxel, there was one glitch that was banned from the game and that was the Variable Cancel (VC) glitch. What is the VC glitch you ask? The VC glitch is a technique that allows you to cancel out of a variety of states/reactions and immediately return you to a default state. I had to copy and paste that from an old source from Shoryuken’s forums of the past. Let me be the one to say that the VC glitch is SO broken because of that explanation. I’ll let the videos explain themselves.
Since then, the extra characters and the creation characters that were banned in tournaments became legal later on.
SoulCalibur IV dealt more on the character bans. When the game came out, Darth Vader, Yoda, Angol Fear, Ashlotte, Kamikirimusi, Scheherezade, and Shura were originally banned in tournaments. By the time Darth Vader and Yoda became DLC in different consoles, they became legal in tournaments. The other five bonus characters were unbanned as an experiment right until they found out that there are changes in the hurt boxes as well as the increased hit-boxes. For example, people would prefer Shura over Cervantes because of that. They got rebanned later on.
Then came the biggest problem, Algol and Hilde. Both of these characters were considered unbeatable and the community wanted to do something about it. They have won a few major tournaments, but never placed Top 3 at EVO. The biggest fear about using these characters is that it could skew the “risk vs. reward” to a point where players could end up switching characters or quitting the game if they remained legal. Although they were banned in the East Coast, EVO officials made them legal during EVO 2009. KDZ, the #1 SoulCalibur player in America, had to go through five Hilde players before reaching Grand Finals. In France, Hilde was actually legal until 2011, only two years after everyone else that I mentioned on here was banned. Algol and the Star Wars characters (including Starkiller) were banned because they didn’t fit the theme within the game.
And now we come to SoulCalibur V. Create-a-soul characters were banned, while custom costumes are soft-banned with the exception of color edits. The soul of Devil Jin was originally banned when the game first game out. By June 19, 2015, Devil Jin became legal in tournaments. TOs had to customize a certain character so that he can be used. Dampierre was originally banned in SoulCalibur V due to being a pre-order DLC exclusive right until he was released to the public weeks later. Nowadays, Dampierre is legal in tournaments.
There were other bans that were worth mentioning on here, such as the Kokonoe ban in Blazblue Chronophantasma. She was banned because she was deemed as a broken character for having touch of death combos that were guaranteed, as well as the Black Hole setups. Thanks to a patch that came out months later after release, Kokonoe was heavily nerfed to a point where she became tournament-legal again.
Kratos was banned in Mortal Kombat 9 because he is a console-exclusive character, along with Kombat Kodes (with the exception of No Blood). Toro, Kuro, BBA Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Cole were banned on Street Fighter X Tekken for being console-exclusive characters as well.
Customizing colors, items, and name edits during tournament play are banned in Killer Instinct. If you did that, then you were given a loss.
In Capcom vs. SNK 2, Evil Ryu, Orochi Iori, Shin Akuma, and God/Ultimate Rugal were banned in tournaments because they were boss characters. Dural is also banned in Virtua Fighter tournaments because of that same reason.
I know there more bans in other fighting game tournaments, but that’s all I can think of.
I want to let every casual player on here know one thing: We do not use these bans because we feel like it, but if we see faults within the design of the game’s mechanics through the eyes of testing after the game's release, then we will see if it is okay to use it in tournaments or not. Also, we don’t force these bans down people’s throats. We’re just giving you guys an idea on how we play competitively compared to how people play the game casually at home, or with friends.
Jeez, that was the longest blog I’ve ever written. I’ll see you guys on the next blog.